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Public officials release assessment on county's health

May 28, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The coalition's report provides information that may help local programs apply for grants.

A useful tool now is available to local health programs interested in applying for grants to help their community needs.

The complete 2012 MAPPing a Healthier Fremont County Coalition Community Assessment has been released by Fremont County Public Health officials, and they are encouraging organizations to use it.

"We want it to be a document for the community," said Fremont County Public Health nurse Jamie Cardine. "Because we've ranked the lowest for at least the last four years as the most unhealthy county in Wyoming. ... We started it out as a group to try to improve that and see what we could do about it."

Cardine said that as her department tried to fill out grant applications, they learned that the forms requested information she wasn't sure how to obtain. A group of people from the public health department worked together to seek the assistance of other area health organizations and state agencies to compile the necessary data.

"A multi-disciplinary team was formed with representatives from all communities in Fremont County, including the Wind River Indian Reservation," read the final report.

The group looked into illnesses, social and mental health issues, diseases and causes of death in the county. The final report already has come in handy for the public health department.

"We've already got one grant, and we got another project very much in the works," Cardine said.

Report results

Roughly 13.5 percent of people in Fremont County reported binge drinking. The state average is 14.6 percent.

One of the most striking results in the report was the county's high number of alcohol-related deaths. Out of 582 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Wyoming between 2008 and 2011, 84 were in Fremont County.

"That means 14 percent of the traffic fatalities occur in a county that accounts for 7 percent of the population," reads the report. "Of these roadway fatalities, over 50 percent were alcohol related."

In 2011, alcohol was involved in 71 percent of homicides, 35 percent of suicides and 41 percent of accidental deaths.

"On unintentional injuries, we're at 89.62 percent per 100,000 people and Wyoming is at 57 percent per 100,000," Cardine said.

Infant deaths

The report also includes data on infant death rates, causes and abuse cases. Adolescent pregnancy rates, low birth rates and prenatal care are also detailed in the report.

The report showed co-sleeping to be the top cause of death for infants. Cardine said her department was able to include those results in a grant application for Pack-N-Play cribs, which can be distributed to parents who don't have a safe place for their infants to sleep. So far, by partnering with the Arapaho WIC program, 15 have been distributed to qualifying families.

"As far as I know, we haven't had a co-sleeping death so far this year," she said. "So maybe the availability and all the awareness is making a difference."

Lessons learned

The public health department hopes to spread the report's results and educate the community.

"There were some things that I felt like I knew were issues that we needed to work on from being in the community, but when we did the assessment, there were a lot of underlying factors that I'm not sure we would have identified without doing this assessment," Cardine said. "And maybe (by) digging some of those underlying issues out, we might have more success."

Cardine said her department will review the report in a future meet and greet session with legislators. They will discuss how the results can be used and explain its availability. The event is set for 9 a.m. June 11 at the Riverton Branch Library.

"We're going to go over the completed assessment and our strategies and hopefully get from them some more strategies and action items," Cardine said.

Fremont County health statistics

- The average age for residents in the county, which has a population of about 40,000, were determined and divided by location. In Riverton, the average is 35, in Shoshoni 39, 40 in Lander, 28 in Fort Washakie, 24 in Arapahoe, 52 in Dubois and 25 in Ethete.

"Disparities in age distribution throughout the county highlights the importance of targeting services based on individual community needs," reads the final report.

- The median income for Lander residents is about $47,000, roughly $39,000 in Riverton, $25,000 in Fort Washakie and $16,000 in Arapahoe.

- About 30 percent of county residents do not have a regular payment source for health care.

- Community members were also surveyed on their "overall sense" of the health of the county. Roughly 1,106 people responded in the 2011-12 survey. As far as the county's health status, 17 percent of those surveyed rated their community as healthy or very healthy.

- Roughly 25.7 percent of people in the state fall under the obese status, while the county reported 25.3 percent.

- Tobacco use in the state was reported at 19.5 percent while residents in Fremont County reported a 23.6 percent tobacco use.

- About 90 percent of restaurants in the county are smoke free.

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